What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the humor in this 1965 comedy is based almost entirely on outrageous drunkenness and sly sexual innuendo. The heroine takes the law into her own hands and leads a gang of con men and drunks on a criminal spree to avenge her father's murder. There are numerous action sequences, which include gunfights, brawls, murders, a train robbery -- none of them meant to be taken seriously. A young Native American hero is subjected to some racial taunting. Alcohol and cartoon-like drunkenness are pervasive.
What's the story?
In the days of the old West, Catherine (Cat) Ballou (Jane Fonda) takes the train home, after finishing school. She does her best to appear proper, but peeks at potboilers about the notorious Kid Shelleen inside her book. On the train, she meets escaping cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) and his uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman). She is attracted to Clay, but not interested in becoming involved with a criminal. Cat is angry and upset when she gets home and sees that her father (John Marley) is being pressured to give up his land. He is killed by hired gun Tim Strawn. When her father's ranch hand, an Indian named Jackson (Tom Nardini) and Clay and Jed are not brave enough to help her fight back, she sends for Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin). Kid arrives, a hopeless drunk. But they help him pull himself together, and they get their revenge. Cat is captured and sentenced to be hung, but is saved at the last minute by her friends.
Is it any good?
CAT BALLOU, a cheerful satire of conventional Westerns, is a lot of fun, with attractive performers and an Oscar-winning performance by Lee Marvin in the dual roles of Shelleen and Strawn. Stubby Kaye (Guys and Dolls) and Nat "King" Cole show up as something between a Greek chorus and medieval minstrels, singing the story as it unfolds. It is good for kids to see a movie with a strong, brave, and resourceful young woman, who is an effective and inspiring leader (though all the men have crushes on her).
Unfortunately, much of the movie's humor relies on the drunken behavior of Shelleen and plenty of sexual innuendo. Nothing's overt and kids won't see anything shocking, but the underlying message that alcohol abuse is funny sends an iffy message for kids and teens.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the humor in this movie. What's funny about alcohol use and sexuality? Why are these topics the source of humor in so many movies? What message does this kind of humor send to kids and teens?
Talk about the stereotypes in this movie. How does Cat Ballou challenge or reinforce gender stereotypes? How is the Native American character portrayed?
How is the violence in the movie portrayed? Does the humor take the edge off the violence? What would the real consequences of the violence be?